If You Wanna Be Happy

Album: The Very Best Of Jimmy Soul (1963)
Charted: 39 1
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Songfacts®:

  • This is based on a calypso song called "Ugly Woman" by Roaring Lion. The message of the song: If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, make an ugly woman your wife. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    John - Douglassville, PA
  • It was a producer named Frank Guida who adapted this song from the calypso melody. Guida loved calypso music and spent some time in Trinidad; he came up with a song called "Twistin' Matilda (And The Channel)" by combining calypso and R&B. Guida, who was from Norfolk, Virginia, had produced Gary U.S. Bonds and Tommy Facenda, but he found a new singer to record "Twistin' Matilda" - James McCleese.

    Guida dubbed McCleese "Jimmy Soul," and in 1962 they released "Twistin' Matilda," which rose to #22 US. Guida then wrote "If You Wanna Be Happy" - again based on a calypso tune - with his wife Carmela and a songwriter named Joseph Royster (he and Royster wrote many songs for Bonds, including "Quarter To Three").

    The song became a huge hit, spending two weeks at US #1 in 1963. The follow-up "Treat 'Em Tough" topped out at #108, and Soul never made another chart appearance.
  • You would think that a song with lyrics like "An ugly woman cooks meals all the time, she'll always give you peace of mind" would cause substantial outrage, but this song never got much upbraiding from women's groups. The feminist movement wasn't well organized in 1963, but even subsequent covers and uses of the song have escaped criticism. It appears that the island rhythm and delivery make it impossible to take the song seriously.
  • Kid Creole And The Coconuts did a popular cover of this song that was released on their 1983 album Doppelganger.
  • This song was used in the movies Clean and Sober (1988) Chances Are (1989) Mermaids (1990) and My Best Friend's Wedding (1997).
  • In the 1984 "Sam Turns the Other Cheek" episode of the TV series Cheers, Sam Malone (Ted Danson) quotes this song after an angry man threatens to kill Sam for having an affair with his wife. After the guy explains that guys are always going after his wife because she's so beautiful, Sam tells him: "You know, tis like that sweet old love ballad says, lf you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife."

Comments: 9

  • The Sanity Cruzer from Santa Cruz, CaThis song seems to be a copy of the music from Chubby Checker's "Limbo Rock" from 1962, but with different lyrics.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrWhat if the woman's personality is ugly? You wouldn't wanna marry a woman like that, would you? I mean, she'd most likely boss you around, probably make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, afraid of your own shadow. I'd rather be pretty than ugly!
  • Curt Davis from DetroitAmen, brother.
  • James from Diamond Bar Ca Love It -:' I saw your wife the other day and she's uuuuggllyy - lol - people are so offended today - they were just joking - its what friends do - the song is just so fun - and being married to a Miss America type would not be easy - lol - great tune
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 12, 1963, Jimmy Soul performed "If You Want Be Happy" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV weekday-afternoon program, 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #50 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, five weeks later it would peak at #1 {for 2 weeks} and it spent a total of fourteen weeks on the Top 100...
    And on May 26th, 1963 it also reached #1 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart...
    He was preceded and then succeeded at #1 on the Top 100 chart by two female singers, preceded by Little Peggy March with "I Will Follow Him", then succeeded by Lesley Gore's "It's My Party"...
    Jimmy Soul had one other Top 100 record, "Twistin' Matilda"*, it peaked at #22 {for 2 weeks} in 1962 and like "If You Want Be Happy" it also stayed on the Top 100 for fourteen weeks...
    Jimmy Soul, born James Louis McCleese, passed away at the young age of 45 on June 25th, 1988...
    May he R.I.P.
    * And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the week "Twistin' Matilda" peaked at #22 there were five other 'Twist' records on the Top 100 chart, "Twist, Twist Senora" by Gary 'U.S.' Bonds {#23}, "Slowing Twistin'" by Chubby Checker {#37}, "Soul Twist" by King Curtis {#39}, "Meet Me At The Twistin' Place" by Johnnie Morisette {#63}, and "Bristol Twistin' Annie" by the Dovells {#85}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 12th 1962, Jimmy Soul appeared on ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    He performed his only other record, "Twistin' Matilda", that made Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart...
    The song entered the Top 100 thirteen days later on March 25th, 1962 at position #97; and eight weeks later on May 20th, 1962 it would peak at #22 {for 2 weeks} and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
    Jimmy Soul, born James Louis McCleese, passed away on June 15th, 1988 at the young age of 45 {heart attack}...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesI must say, many pretty women are wonderful wives. I highly doubt that Jimmy Soul was discriminating against pretty women. I believe that Jimmy Soul was simply conveying the message that when a guy wants to marry, outward adornment should be a bonus, not a factor. It's all about the inner self, not what's on the outside. If she doesn't have "the look", why should that bother a guy? Too bad this world is bent on the image. Oh by the way, the melody is a lot like that of Chubby Checkers' "Limbo Rock".
  • Monnie from Naples, FlThis song is hysterical! I am a chick, and it is still funny. If a girl can't laugh at this, RUN!!! I sing it karaoke, and people laugh there a$$es off!
  • Murph from Peoria, IlI credit this song with the end of a high school relationship.... This song came on the radio and I started laughing... the girl threw a huge tantrum because "quite obviously since you're enjoying a song like this, then you must feel I'm ugly because we ARE getting married, right?"

    THat one ended REAL soon after....
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